Director: Peter Jackson
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
So, how can I possibly give the movie a 4 if I'm not even willing to say I like it? Because I know I'll watch it again. In fact, I'm highly likely to buy a copy and devote hours of my life to deep consideration of the differences between the film and the source material. I can easily imagine spending entire weekends with the books, these films, Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies and even the old cartoons pondering the different interpretations. In time, I may learn to love.
But first, I need to get over wanting The Hobbit movies to be the same as the book. Movies are never quite the same. I know this. Once I am able to appreciate an adaptation on its own terms, I can enjoy it. I have similar struggles with the Wonka movies. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of maybe three books for which I have a comparable affection (the others are Huck Finn which typically translates awkwardly to film but is probably overdue for an earnest, big-budget attempt and Catcher in the Rye which should NEVER be made into a movie). I'd read Dahl's classic many times before finally watching 1971's film starring Gene Wilder. I hated the movie - absolutely detested it - because it was so different from my beloved favorite. I prefer Tim Burton's 2005 interpretation with Johnny Depp entirely because of its closer adherence to Dahl's original. But over time, I've come to accept the '71 film for what it is: a fun, clever, sweet story in its own right.
I may come to view The Hobbit trilogy in a similar light but I'm not there yet. Gandalf's adventures away from Bilbo and the dwarves are open to interpretation but a love story between one of the dwarves and an elf is unnecessary and out of line. At the very least, Jackson should have done a better job of sticking to Tolkien's language. To me, the book's one, perfect passage is Thorin's farewell speech to Bilbo: "There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." Despite giving himself three films and 8.5 hours, Jackson couldn't find the time to include the whole thing. That, for me, may be his most unforgivable sin.
But The Battle of Five Armies is, in its own right, quite an amazing work of cinema. New Zealand is as stunning as ever and Jackson's CGI is certainly impressive. I especially enjoyed Thorin being swallowed by the golden floor. There were, however, a couple of giggle-inducing moments that weren't intended to be so. The first was the troll ramming his head into the city wall of Dale, then falling over, dazed. The second was Legolas running up a staircase of falling rocks. Action scenes should, at the very least, be giggle-proof. Even so, it's way too good a movie for me to write off as simply "not as good as the book." It will probably be another 30 years before anyone even tries to adapt The Hobbit again so for now, Jackson's work will just have to do.